Say What You Mean

Please pray that my family will have traveling mercies.  (What are those?)

I have an unspoken request. (Oxymoron much?)

Etc. 

I wonder sometimes what Christian conversations look like to “outsiders” who don’t share the same belief system.  😉

I feel that sometimes the trite phrases or bad grammar we use in Christianity may be a hindrance to drawing others toward Christ.  Unlike God’s unchanging Word, our own flawed speech can be become meaningless, or even disconnected from reality.  For example, in the first phrase is a very weak usage of the meaning of “mercy”, which I think undermines the expression greatly.  That is similar to how the word “love” is cheapened in society in its various irreverent uses.   Phrases like these have the potential to confuse those who are not familiar with Christianity, as well as being non-specific and sometimes dishonest.  Try these more meaningful variations of the phrases I included previously:

I’d appreciate if you could pray that my family will be protected during our travels across the states, and that if any problems come up, we will be well-equipped to handle them, with patience and the right attitude.

I would like if you could pray about an issue that I’d prefer not to share details about for personal reasons (and/or) because I’m not comfortable going into the details.

Simple.  To the point.  Say what you mean, rather than beat around the bush.  Even though these phrases are more specific, though, sometimes we can hide behind them.  Communicating openly and honestly requires effort, and risk.  It is rarely something that fits neatly into two or three words.  I return again to the two given examples:  First, why do we fear that something bad will happen to us every time we leave the house?  Troubles may happen.  We need to be prepared for trouble all the time, and trust that God is able to help us.  Granted, getting ready to travel may take spiritual preparation, but it’s still important not to frame life poorly.  Every car is not set out to crash into you, an event which you can only be spared by a swift act of God’s grace (though He is certainly a gracious God).  Are there dangers in the outside world?  Absolutely.  Should we go out with a spirit of fear?  Never.  It’s not from God.

Next, although it takes time and effort to become comfortable sharing prayer requests, sometimes we can use the unspoken “pray for me” as a cop-out from opening up.  You don’t have to share your problems with everyone (and it’s not appropriate to share some problems with everyone in the whole church, it’s important to have discretion) – but if you want someone to be able to effectively pray for you, it can be helpful to give them the appropriate level of information to do so.  By the way- here’s a hint. 😉  If most of your prayers revolve around your schoolwork going well and that your friend’s knee will stop hurting, you’re probably holding something back.  God wants to shape souls, not just your level of comfort.  Be honest with trusted (and trustworthy) individuals about your personal struggles, including in your own prayers.

I am curious.  Sometimes I feel that church-speak is particularly distracting to me, and I’d like to know how others feel about this issue.  How does church-speak affect your relationships with others?  Do you agree that it may make teaching the Gospel message more difficult, or do you think “it ain’t nothin’ but a thing?  😉  You can leave your thoughts in the comments section. =)

Art Credit: The Help

11 comments

    1. I’m glad you found this interesting! Like I said, I’m curious about others’ thoughts on this issue. 🙂

      For the purpose of discussion: if in the end the message is all that matters, do you think that the message is communicated effectively to those unfamiliar with church-speak? 🙂

  1. Since I’m a very private person who does not open up to most people, I don’t mind nondescript prayer requests — because God knows what that person needs even if I do not.

    1. True indeed. =)
      I feel I should clarify on that note – I do believe that nondescript prayer requests are okay (minus stating them as an oxymoron, haha). However, sometimes I think that there are those who hide behind them.

      This is definitely not true of every person- and some people prefer not to share certain things with others, and that’s okay- but it seems like sometimes people will keep requests non-descript or stick to “safe” prayer requests almost as a safety blanket. I feel that in those particular cases, opening up may lead to spiritual growth, better accountability, and in some instances, even getting the help they need for their prayers to be answered.

      1. Probably so, but then again, some things you really don’t want the whole world knowing — I have always cringed when people have announced to an entire group something they are asking prayer for, because often it comes across more like gossip — “pray for so-and-so, who is going through a divorce with her husband!” or “please pray for my brother, he’s going in for a rectal scan to find out if he has cancer of the…” o.O

        I think finding one or two people you confide in is good — but I’ll never be entirely comfortable opening up with a group. =)

  2. Absolutely! 🙂
    I don’t like gossipy-prayer, either. It’s another pet peeve of mine. =P
    I think that prayers like those are better left completely unsaid in groups- expect directly to God in private, or in the confidence of those one or two trustworthy people. Especially if they are concerning someone else and that person’s private business, rather than something having to do with yourself and your personal growth. Some people do not need to be made privy to certain information or have it broadcast in the whole church.

    The non-descript “pray for me” I’ve heard more often in the context of between a few people versus a larger, more inclusive group. In which case I think that it is used most often as a security blanket, as opposed to the group setting. =]

  3. I think that’s the jist, they will generally ask you later what you meant, am pretty soon they will be praying like that, I think it’s important to have some “code way” if I may, of praying, I agree with the commenters, some things are better not said 😉

  4. Oh my. Great post! I’m not sure if I’m the only one but airy talk like that makes me tired! 😛 When God saves us, he adopts us. That means that the Christians around us are our family and should be allowed to biblically hold us accountable. So in that respect, I think our prayer request (if not gossip but personal) should be a little more in depth… it helps me when I know what to pray for when there’s a little more detail in what the person says. It also is a gateway for praise. When we, in a small group, are praying for a personal need of another sister, we get to watch God work in her life whether he answers the prayer or lets it go unanswered. It builds community and is, I think, how God means for the church to be. And yes, I definitely agree that ‘christianese’ can deter a not familiar churched person away from the gospel. God can do anything but we should indeed say what we mean to say and be raw, honest Christ followers. How else are we going to grow? We’re meant to live out this crazy life with others. Just my thoughts.
    Sorry if this was too long! 🙂

    1. It wasn’t too long at all; thank you for your comment! ^_^
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading and appreciate your thoughts. And I definitely agree!

      I feel I should add still another “addition” to this article here: which is, I don’t want to discredit the importance of personal (especially private) prayer. Jesus Christ is an example of someone who had both a public and a private prayer life. He communicated differently with just his disciples than with a crowd, and differently with a crowd than with His Father alone. Different situations call for different levels of openness, etc.

      However, from what I’ve seen of modern Christian churches, I think that the problem I and others have addressed do exist. The problems may be different elsewhere of course, though. In some churches gossip may be more of a problem. In some accountability may be commonplace. Every church is different- but some share common problems or common traits that become pet peeves, haha. 🙂

      Thanks so much everyone for all your discussion!

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